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Learning your options

2:38 PM  May 22nd, 2018
by Erin Frey ’18

As the opioid epidemic sweeps across the nation, estate attorney Kelli E. Brown ’93 sees the anxiety of clients who have children addicted to drugs or alcohol.

As Brown continues to see the number of clients with this problem increasing, she’s realized that parents struggle with knowing how to responsibly divide their estate since an addicted child may not handle a large amount of wealth appropriately.

“More and more, middle and wealthy families have adult children that are struggling with addiction issues. They come to me and I tell them there are so many things they can do,” Brown said. However, it’s the ones who do not have estate planning who Brown worries about.

In 2017, Brown wrote Estate Planning When You Have an Addicted Child to help explain to parents how they could decide in a responsible way to keep addicted children in the will or to exclude them.

Some of those options include placing assets in a trust, designating early on who gets personal property and finding a responsible person to be in charge even if he/she is not a relative.

After taking a media law class with Judge James Brogan while at UD, Brown knew she wanted to go to law school. Brown attended Chase Law School at Northern Kentucky University followed by the University of Miami, Coral Gables, where she earned a Master of Laws in estate planning.

Brown has been practicing trusts and estate law for 21 years.  She is currently a partner at Goldberg Simpson LLC, a law firm in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is the chair of the trusts and estates department.

The purpose of my book is to provide information to the average person who may have a loved one struggling with addiction. I want them to have the resources they need to make good decisions. They need to know there are many options,” Brown said.

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The separation of church and space

2:03 PM  May 21st, 2018
by Joshua Ambrosius

Picture the expanse of outer space. You are flying through it, with views of asteroids, planets, stars, galaxies and nebulae swirling around you. As you are absorbing these images, I want you to recall the words of St. Paul to the Roman Church, that God’s nature is revealed through this created order, not just here on Earth, but beyond.

The 10 trillion galaxies reveal God to us. The septillion stars display divine energy, and the countless planets tell us of God’s creativity and love. As the psalmists wrote, it is these heavens that declare the glory of God, the skies that proclaim the work of God’s hands.

Ponder the power that was necessary to mold this universe. And then this same God populated the universe with solar systems, that gave rise to planets, some with liquid water, where every 10 drops of that water holds more molecules than the known universe has stars. And in this water on at least one world, but undoubtedly on many others, life arose and slowly adapted to the water and the weather and the environment, and in due course gave rise to us, to you, to me, giving us abilities to learn and think and speak and write and dream and travel to places eventually beyond the Earth.

For me, outer space and religion are intertwined — inseparable in their magnificence and wonder.

But not everyone sees it this way.

I am not an astronomer, nor an astronaut, nor even a theologian. I am a social scientist, a professor of political science. My job is to ask questions and answer them with public opinion data, wherein we learn of the multiplicity of views on topics as seemingly diverse as religion and space. When I asked the question “Does religion influence public support of U.S. space policy?” I was as curious about my own faith tradition as the nation as a whole. My findings demonstrate that we have vast opportunities to improve space education to religious constituencies. But public opinion also shows that our failure to act could imperil not only our nation but also the very existence of our species.

 My own faith tradition often perplexes my students, who are majority Catholic. I was raised as an evangelical Protestant — Pentecostal to be specific. It is a tradition that is at best skeptical of biological science, if not science and higher education overall. I grew up reading books critical of evolutionary theory — and even defended creation science in a class assignment on persuasive public speaking. But I always had this other side, a part of me that saw science and space as exciting opportunities for exploration and adventure. I read books by astronomer and atheist Carl Sagan, who asserted alien civilizations undoubtedly flourished among the cosmos. My favorite TV series was the X-Files, and I loved the dystopian future world of the Alien movies.

Despite warnings from some family members that college would make me give up everything I believed in, I went. Once or twice I had crises of faith. But I came out on the other side, making adjustments within my faith to make it intellectually compatible with what we know about the world around us. I now see no problem with any findings of science, and politically I think and act very differently than when I was young. I now consider myself an ecumenical evangelical.

Joshua Ambrosius in the Caryl D. Philips Space Theater planetarium
at Dayton’s Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

As a social scientist and an evangelical, I am interested in the role religion plays in public life. I began my graduate studies in public policy at Johns Hopkins, where I taught an undergraduate course on faith-based social policy. I even worked on the national Faith-Based and Community Initiative at the U.S. Department of Labor. In my doctoral dissertation for the Urban and Public Affairs program at the University of Louisville, I evaluated how religious participation might affect your support of city-county government consolidation.

Given my side interest in outer space, and the experiences of my religious upbringing, I was curious if my own tradition lags behind others when it comes to support for space policy. I began analyzing public opinion data from four publically available, nationally random surveys that asked U.S. adults questions about space and religion. But I set the project aside to focus on teaching and other research, until I read a 2014 blog post by creationist Ken Ham criticizing NASA efforts to find alien life. Ham’s post rekindled my desire to examine whether his views holding that Earth life is special and preeminent in the created order were widespread and associated with less support for space policy. I saw the film Interstellar later that year, in which Matthew McConaughey portrays an astronaut in search of an off-world home to save our species from extinction by environmental collapse. Inspired to complete the project, I returned from the movie theater and wrote into the morning.

I wanted to know the influence of religion, in its many forms, on public support for U.S. space policy. Would there be a difference based on religious belonging, beliefs, and behaviors when it came to knowledge of and support for space exploration? I would discover the answer was yes, and religious elements seemed to have the greatest influence in my own tradition — a negative influence. 

Religion in general does not stand in the way of support for space exploration, but some traditions holding less knowledge of space give lower support to space exploration. Results indicate that evangelicals, or non-Catholic Christians with a born-again conversion experience, ranked consistently lower than the rest of the population on five of seven space measures: knowledge of space, funding support of space exploration, space benefits both general and national, and optimism about the future of space exploration.

Some of my findings include:

-Hindus, Buddhists, those of other Eastern traditions, and Jews represent strong advocates for space policy.

-Mainline Protestants, Jews, Eastern traditions and those with no religion scored significantly higher on space knowledge.

-Jews, Eastern traditions and religious “nones” all stand out positively on perceptions of general space benefits.

-Eastern traditions and the nones also rate higher on support for space funding.

-Eastern traditions are most interested in space.

-Catholics are higher than other religions on space nationalism, the belief that the U.S. should lead the way in exploration.

Evangelicals express a sort of “space pessimism.” This means that evangelicals hold higher expectations that an asteroid will hit the Earth during the next four decades, but lower expectations of the discovery of life away from Earth over the same period. In perhaps the most interesting finding on expectation, evangelicals are surer that Jesus will return to Earth before mid-century than they are about any of four space events occurring: an asteroid hitting Earth, scientists finding evidence of life elsewhere, ordinary people traveling to space, or astronauts landing on Mars.

In an interesting twist, support of one’s clergy member(s) for science makes a significant difference among this most skeptical religious group. If an evangelical’s pastor speaks negatively about science, the probability of agreeing with the statement “space exploration does more good than harm” is 47 percent. When a pastor speaks positively, the probability is 97 percent. While I do not remember ever hearing a sermon on space from the pulpit of my churches, the findings indicate a clear opportunity for inroads in both the understanding of space science and the support of space exploration.

 As we dream of our cosmic future, we begin to wonder if further exploration of the cosmos is motivated by a practical desire to improve human conditions or an innate desire for discovery. The latter, while a powerful drive for scientific advancement, is a more difficult justification for public or private funding. The reality is that, despite private programs like SpaceX and visionaries like Elon Musk, we need public investment to make progress in space. We also need a sustained national, and likely international, effort. This will require a very long-term vision and funding model that transcends political cycles. Political science can, and should, help chart the way forward.

I taught, for the first time, an interdisciplinary course on the social, political and economic aspects of space exploration during the fall of 2017. We discussed the U.S. political cycle — how the party in power pursues its agenda, often by overturning the work of the previous power holders. Then we have an election, power shifts, and it all starts again. Take recent U.S. policy on returning to the moon. In 2004, President George W. Bush announced an effort to build a moon base as a steppingstone for deeper space exploration to Mars and beyond. President Barack Obama canceled the moon base in 2010, citing underfunding and delays that would make a return to the moon unrealistic until at least 2028. And in December, President Donald Trump ordered NASA to focus on getting back to the moon: “We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and, perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond,” he said.

We also must contend with politicians from both parties who believe the problems down here, from health care to potholes, are more deserving of funding than space exploration. Granted, billions are currently going toward space science. While this sounds like a lot of money, it is less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget.

“Religion in general does not stand in the way of support for space exploration, but some traditions holding less knowledge of space give lower support to space exploration.”

So why should we go to space? Beyond the general benefit arguments that space science creates jobs and leads to innovations that improve our lives on Earth, there is the question of the survival of humankind. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as NASA administrators, have stated that a one-planet species will not last long in the universe. “We are running out of space, and the only places to go to are other worlds,” Hawking stated during a 2017 lecture. As time goes on, the likelihood increases that disasters, either natural or manmade, could end life on Earth. From a purely survivalist point of view, funding off-world travel makes a lot of sense.

In political science, we talk about focusing events. These serve as motivating problems that demand attention that could lead to action. For example, when there is a mass shooting, gun policy gets closer to the agenda. Thus far, climate change and its threat to our species has not galvanized our response. So what will be our space exploration focusing event? It could be the near miss of an asteroid, or the discovery of life in outer space, or even a private venture that colonizes Mars.

 We cannot talk about funding space science, or of public action for imminent threats, without bringing back into the conversation my findings about religious groups. Evangelicals are not just isolated space pessimists — they are, by some measures, up to a quarter of the U.S. electorate and an even greater share of the Republican Party’s base. So how can we ensure they are part of the space policy conversation?

One tact is to embrace the opportunities identified in the research. NASA, as well as organizations and businesses involved in space contracts in general, should participate in outreach and education to all religious constituencies, and to evangelicals in particular. In other words, they need to try harder. For too long, some of the most outspoken proponents of space exploration have been dismissive of if not antagonistic toward organized religion. Opportunities to inform clergy are especially important, as their sermons evidently influence the perceived benefit of space exploration. 

Individuals who have resolved conflicts between their faith and their work as scientists can enhance the conversation and increase public knowledge. One such evangelical is Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project and current director of the National Institutes of Health. His organization BioLogos, which he left to lead the NIH, promotes harmony between biological science and biblical faith in its evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. It also strives for dialogue with those who hold other views and could be a model of how to have such conversations in other areas of science. 

Evangelicals can also look to the Catholic Church as one example of a healthy marriage between church and space. The Vatican, with its own observatory and meteorite collection, also has a Jesuit brother as its chief astronomer, who not only explores extraterrestrial geology but also expounds on the relation between our Earthly selves and the whole of God’s creation. Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., wrote in his Vatican Observatory blog, “The intimate study of God’s creation, the act we call science, is thus an act of worship. Astronomy is not only an appropriate activity for a church to support, it is also something that’s right for individual humans to spend our whole lives doing, given the chance.”

As you may surmise, I advocate for increasing current spending and not waiting for the disaster of a focusing event to move our nation and our species closer to an off-world future. I believe religious actors and institutions should support humanity’s expansion into outer space because their future survival depends on it, and the space community should engage with religious publics so that they do not present obstacles to humanity’s cosmic future.

My evangelical community does not need to embrace a new theology, but simply bask in the glory of the cosmos. At a minimum, I argue that the church not stand in the way of space science, and that it contributes to a healthy dialogue between religious believers and the space community. It will require us to build on the attentive publics in many of the great world religions and work together as we embark on the greatest project humanity has ever pursued.

   

Continued conversations

Interested in popular culture connecting space and religion? Professor Joshua Ambrosius recommends that you:

-Watch the film Contact (1997), adapted from the novel by Carl Sagan, about a scientist’s struggles with faith as she seeks to represent humanity as an interstellar ambassador.

-Read the novel The Sparrow (1996) by Ohio author Mary Doria Russell about Jesuits leading a mission of first contact with an alien civilization.

-Watch the new Amazon pilot for Oasis (2017), based on Dutch writer Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things (2014), about a
pastor asked to serve as chaplain to the colonists of a remote exoplanet.

Out of this world, and in this classroom

In fall 2017, I offered a new interdisciplinary course taught from three perspectives: political science, sociology and economics. Forty-four students enrolled in two sections of SSC 200, Space Exploration: Toward a Space-Faring Society, in which they learned about space policy
and how to research problems in space exploration.

Students enrolled in the course were, for the most part, genuinely interested in space exploration — hardly a surprise. But they also became more supportive of space policy as the course went on. About two-thirds came into the course believing that our government should spend more on space exploration than it currently does. After exposure to the actual space budget, which constitutes less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget, more than nine out of 10 students now believe we should increase space funding — a view shared by just one-fifth of U.S. adults, according to the 2016 General Social Survey.

What arguments could help get more of the public on board with space funding? When the students ranked what they believed would best convince space skeptics, they chose economic motivations:

-creation of spin-off companies and products

-new forms of energy

-job creation

These “utilitarian” justifications contrast with exploration for the sake of exploration — including the search for answers to questions about universal origins and the proliferation of life in the universe. They also contrast with some of the students’ top personal motivations, including peace that could develop out of international cooperation. 

I plan to teach the course again in upcoming semesters. It allows me to share my research on religion and space and also help implement one of my research conclusions: that those who believe in space exploration need to reach out to
religious constituencies as potential allies in our quest for the stars. 

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Alumni Community Profile

2:00 PM  May 21st, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

Alumni living in southwest Florida enjoy some of the best beaches this country has to offer. Boating trips to Key West are common, and baseball fans can enjoy the fact that the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins hold spring training in that region. With hundreds of public golf courses and dozens of marinas, alumni are rarely indoors. As a group, the Southwest Florida Alumni Community volunteered at the Harry Chapin Food Bank to distribute meals to the community after Hurricane Irma and are planning to do a beach cleanup this spring or volunteer at the Manatee Reserve Park.

Question: What makes southwest Florida such a great place for UD alumni to live?

People living in this area love to be outdoor folks. We get to enjoy the milder temperatures of Florida in this area, which is great. We have a lot of recreational activities that you can take part in because of the weather afforded to us here. We love the water and enjoy going out on boat rides. There’s a lot of alumni in the area so there are a lot of friendly faces around.” —Rick Granite ’88

With an average year-round temperature of 75 degrees, southwest Florida is paradise!  There are miles of beaches, rivers and bay for fun outdoor activities. We are a short drive away from Tampa, Naples, Captiva and Sanibel Islands, Miami and Key West. You can be a part of the city life or find an escape from it.” —Emily Spicer 08

“With endless outdoor activities available year round, you are never without a fun activity to try.  The cities in the area offer great culture, restaurants, craft breweries and bars. It’s easy to see how this area was voted one of the happiest and healthiest places to live in the U.S.” —Jennifer Graul Granite ’12

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An accidental Marianist

1:26 PM  May 18th, 2018
by Tom Columbus

An accidental Marianist

Lisa Rismiller, who works in the president’s office as secretary of the board of trustees, has called herself that. We asked her why.

I was born and raised in a town with no Catholic school.

My parish, where I attended Mass and less-than-inspirational catechism classes, didn’t feel welcoming and inclusive.

My high school sweetheart and I married in that same church where we’d grown up. We continued to attend Mass regularly; we dutifully raised our sons Catholic. But I never felt connected to the local parish. It felt like going through the motions.

And I started to realize — and resent — how sexism affected my life and career choices. A sense that women were sometimes treated as second-class citizens by the Catholic Church certainly didn’t help my connection to it.

Planning on a career in city management, I came to UD for a graduate degree. But an unforeseen opportunity arose — to be able work for then-president Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., while finishing my degree. Twenty-one years later, I’m still here.

Just as this Catholic, Marianist university forms students, it has formed me.

Here I’ve come to know, work with and learn from kind, compassionate, talented, hard-working and peace-loving Marianists — vowed and lay. Their world view, their passion for the Marianist charism and what it has to offer the world has seeped into my bones. I’ve learned how to “stay at the table” when the going gets rough, how to be a lifelong learner and how to give of myself in support of others.

My experience with Marianists, especially the immersive and ongoing formation as a Marianist Educational Associate, kept me not only at UD but also in the Catholic Church. I still struggle at times, but I’ve come to a place where the positives outweigh the challenges. I seek to be like some Catholic women I’ve come to know and admire; they’re challenged as I am but stay to be part of making the Church better for all.

I plan to stay, too, as I know walking with the Marianists will make me a better spouse, parent, colleague … a better human being. Call it a “happy
accident.”

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Let’s Talk

1:20 PM  May 18th, 2018
by Thomas M. Columbus

Some people are putting aside talking just to vent their feelings, to rally the like-minded, to persuade others they must agree with them. Others are still talking. But they are also listening. And they are trying to understand.

We offer on these pages four conversations on dialogue. It is more than talk. It is more than being nice. And it is hard.

Understanding and being understood

The 1960s brought us fashion fads: bell bottom pants and paisley shirts and go-go boots. Many of the fads faded.

The same time also saw us as a divided nation on issues including the Vietnam War, race relations and women’s rights. Many people proposed replacing strife in the streets with nonviolent interaction. They “began to see dialogue as a means by which we should communicate with each other,” according to a chapter in the UD textbook now used in Communication 100: Principles of Oral Communication.

Dialogue has existed as long as language. But in the 1960s it took on a new dimension.

“Dialogue wasn’t just seen as a technique for communication,” reads the UD book chapter written by Jon Hess, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It was seen as an ethical requirement.”

But within a decade or so, such interest passed like just another fad. Perhaps too much was expected. Some momentous laws were passed. Some people bonded. But an age of peace and love did not come upon us. Maybe dialogue became viewed as just so much holding hands, singing “Kumbaya” and hoping for the best.

‘You can’t have good dialogue if you avoid conflict. If you avoid it, you can’t pursue truth.’

Whatever the case, when UD’s new general education curriculum, the Common Academic Program, was introduced, the courses in the Faith Traditions element of it required students to enter into dialogue. Kelly Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, was not impressed.

I thought it soft intellectually,” she said. “I saw its focus being on niceness and acceptance and protecting feelings, not on the pursuit of truth.”

Her approach in class had been structured debate.

“I told my students,” she said, “‘I don’t want to hear you say that both sides made good points. I want to know which author wins.’

“We had a lot of fun.”

To her, a great value of debate is that debate is active learning and thus promotes retention.

And her academic training used critique and debate. Given that background, she said, “I had no idea how to do dialogue.”

So she went to see Joe Valenzano, now chair of the Department of Communication. Valenzano was the first director of the revised Communication 100 course, which has dialogue as one of its components.

The revision of the first-year communication course had not occurred in a vacuum. Hess recalls that, when in 2008 he came to UD to be chair of the communication department, “the University did not want to continue the traditional oral communication course.”

So a group of communication faculty members talked to departments across campus, asking them what their students needed. They found three results, according to Hess. The STEM areas wanted students to be able to explain complex ideas to others. Humanities and business departments wanted students to be able to make a persuasive argument as well as be able to critique one — skills learned in debate.

And, universitywide, faculty wanted students to be able to engage in dialogue with people whose perspectives are different from their own.

The course, in its third full year, is now directed by Jason Combs, a lecturer in the communication department. The course includes among its goals developing in students the abilities that other departments had desired:

  • Explaining material to non-experts. “Learning how,” Combs said, “to build a bridge between a person with expert knowledge and a person without it.”
  • Advocating, persuading. “How to get someone to adopt your ideas. The traditional way of doing this was speaking to an audience.”
  • Dialoguing. “How to engage in communication with people with different ideas — with the goal, not of convincing them, but of understanding each other.”

And, important in the developing of all these abilities, is listening.

Students must learn,” Combs said, “how to engage in critical analysis, how to think quickly.”

This past term, Combs’ students returned from Thanksgiving full of turkey, cold viruses, upcoming exam anxiety and the Communication 100 unit on dialogue.

Earlier in the term students in the class learned how to persuade others; they had made speeches advocating a position. The first class after Thanksgiving, students began to prepare for engaging in dialogue.

The following week, they broke into groups of six. Each member of a group chose a persuasive speech a classmate had given and delivered a three-minute response to it. The other five took notes. This process prepared them for a 15-minute dialogue that followed.

During the students’ three-minute responses, Combs said, professors want to see nonverbal behaviors such as looking at one’s audience consistently and directly and expressing conviction in one’s face and gestures. They look at how well the students summarize the arguments to which they are responding, how well they organize their responses, how well they support their own arguments with evidence from credible sources and how civilly they present their material.

During the 15-minute discussions, professors want to hear students build a supportive climate, ask good questions (including ones to clarify others’ views), paraphrase their peers’ positions before responding to them, assert their own views clearly and interact civilly with the other students. They also look, Combs said, “for nonverbal behaviors that can build a supportive climate and engage in effective listening, for example, consistent and direct eye contact with the others who are speaking, facial expressions, head nods to suggest attentiveness, smiling to create empathy.”

Watching one group begin its dialogue, one could see how the students dutifully used the techniques necessary to achieve the course’s objectives. As they talked and listened to others talk about speeches related to social media, they became more engaged. A tangential reference to net neutrality moved the discussion into a new area. The students became curious. They asked each other questions. They weren’t trying to win anything. And they were doing more than getting a grade; they were gaining understanding of complex issues; they were learning.

After talking to Valenzano, Johnson had also learned the value of dialogue for her
religious studies classes.

“I got won over gradually,” she said. “I came to realize that a lot more was involved than respect for the other person.”

That included speaking and listening, but a specific kind of speaking and listening.

“You have to speak so people can understand you,” she said. “You need to formulate what you think in a way that is clear to others.”

Listening is more than just hearing.

“You ask questions,” she said, “not trying to trip up opponents as in a debate, but so that you understand. The aim is to understand each other. If you don’t understand what the other is saying, you keep asking questions.”

She tells her students working in group dialogue that they are teammates, not competitors. That involves a certain amount of respect.

But, Johnson said, “it is more than being nice. And it is hard.”

One reason it’s hard, she thinks, is that UD students really are nice people.

“Whether it’s UD or the Midwest or whatever, most students here want to be nice,” she said. “They don’t want to offend anyone or stir up a heated disagreement. If you let them follow that instinct, what they are speaking may not be the truth and they may not understand what they are hearing.”

Before her conversion to dialogue as a method, Johnson had thought that dialogue avoided conflict.

But,” she said, “you can’t have good dialogue if you avoid conflict. If you avoid it, you can’t pursue truth.”

She had been attracted to debate because it could lead to truth.

“In debate, you want students to step up to the plate, not to sidestep conflict by saying, ‘We all have good points.’ You want them to make hard judgments, to pick a winner. The subjects we debated in class weren’t ones on which the student already had positions. They became engaged. They learned.”

But she also recognized a downside to competitive debate.

“Sometimes they would massage their positions in order to win.”

Her use of dialogue differs from her previous use of debate in that students often present their own views. And the concept of winning is different.

In dialogue, she said, “Winning is understanding someone else and having them understand you.”

Dialogue may not bring peace and love to the world, but a little understanding might make it a little better.

Johnson recalls a class that was looking at contemporary moral questions related to slavery. Some people read Pope Francis’ speech about human trafficking; some read about laws that would improve our ability to trace whether slavery was used in a supply chain.

Each student wrote a response to a contemporary article. They then broke into groups, determined by the paper each had picked.

Two members of one group were bright, white, male undergrads who wrote about the issue of whether there should be a national conversation about reparations.

“Each of their papers,” Johnson said, “said that race is over and talk of reparations would just stir up trouble.”

The other student was an African-American woman.

“It was one of the most transformative moments of dialogue I’ve ever seen,” Johnson said.

The men listened to the woman tell of her experience with racism, to her saying it was not over. Each student spoke. Each student listened. They did not try to change each other’s minds.

They tried to understand.

 

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A refuge from illness

2:00 PM  Apr 20th, 2018
by Molly Blake ’96

Katharine Conway ’01 doesn’t wear a white physician’s coat or scrubs when she treats patients at Wright State Physicians Health Center in Fairborn, Ohio. She said she wants them to feel at ease and “have space to tell their story without feeling intimidated.”

After all, many of the men, women and children she works with are refugees from Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and are
facing what Conway calls “the trifecta of illnesses.”  These include chronic conditions like diabetes, infectious diseases and mental illness.

The patients have fled their home countries and yet they bring incredible resilience and deep culture to Ohio cities according to Conway. She admits, however, that treating refugees is a challenge for the U.S. health care system and health care workers. That’s why, at Wright State University where Conway teaches and overseas the Global Health curriculum program, medical students spend several weeks studying and working in places like Swaziland, Peru and Malawi.

By training medical students in global health care initiatives, Conway said, “I’m trying to connect the dots with training abroad and how to use that knowledge to improve health care.”

We need to make global health care local,” said Conway, who believes that by meeting refugees’ health care needs more effectively, health care professsionals will help refugees become “our newest neighbors, to work and live independently in the community.”

Conway graduated with a degree in biology and was one of the first UD students to graduate with a minor in human rights. Conway said she didn’t want to go to UD. She only agreed, while on the area college tour circuit, to stop and visit the campus to appease her mother.

When they arrived on campus, “It was classic UD,” Conway said. “I fell in love.

“I really learned how to build a valuable life and serve my community too.

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From records to Rottweilers

1:27 PM  Apr 10th, 2018
by Jeaneen Parsons

Since her days as a disc jockey at WVUD while a student, Patty Spitler ’76 has been in the communication business. After graduation, she broke the “vinyl ceiling” as one of the first female morning DJs in the country at a time when that coveted time slot was dominated by men.

The communication major eventually moved from radio to TV, anchoring news and entertainment programs at WISH–TV in Indianapolis. In 2005, a severe hearing loss caused Spitler to change her career path.

“I was depressed when I lost my hearing but decided to take what I knew and learn to adapt,” she said.

After that, her career literally went to the dogs. Actually, pets of all kinds. As host and producer of the nationally syndicated PetPalsTV, she reaches 8 million animal-loving households weekly with programming that promotes responsible pet ownership, tells heartwarming stories and offers advice from experts on animal-related topics. As the boss, she selects the co-hosts — like her dogs Mabel and Stewie, her constant companions.

Spitler’s new lifestyle program, “Great Day TV with Patty Spitler,” airs in Indiana markets including Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, with plans for the show to be more widely distributed. As an independent producer, Spitler has control over content and can advocate for issues close to her heart.

“Hearing loss and mental distress — I’ve suffered from both and had to hide that doing the news,” Spitler said. “Now I can offer hope and support. I don’t have to hide my disability, and it’s
a great stress reliever to be open.”

Spitler sits on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and is an advocate and spokesperson for Hearing Indiana, an organization that focuses primarily on children’s auditory health.

Over the years, Spitler has developed a philosophy to deal with setbacks and loss: “I’m busy. I’m relevant. I’m happy. You don’t have to be like everyone else — you make yourself happy by doing what you love.”

We’ll bark to that.

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Different backgrounds, but bonded in basketball

4:42 PM  Mar 16th, 2018
by Thomas M. Columbus; photos by Briana Snyder ’09

The shipyard, auto plant and steel mill are gone. But Lorain remains Ohio’s 10th-largest city.

In Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, college basketball is king — and queen.

Coolville, Ohio, does not have a stop sign.

The hometowns of Alex Harris, JaVonna Layfield and Jenna Burdette are very different. But, according to head coach Shauna Green, the three seniors on the Flyers women’s basketball team have one thing in common: “You know what you are going to get out of them every single night.”

And what that is has been very, very good.

Though the backgrounds of the three have many differences, the common factor of basketball has drawn them together.
Harris has always loved basketball.

“Even before kindergarten, a basketball hoop was her favorite toy,” her mother, Sandra Wright, said.

Harris’ first day of kindergarten was the first day of high school for her sister, Shayla Wright. The two were very close, partially because their mother worked two jobs. Kindergarten for Harris marked not only the beginning of school but the beginning of intensely following her sister’s basketball career.

Harris rode the team bus to games. As her sister recalled, Harris “sat on the end of the bench. Our coach called her our ‘little mascot.’” Later playing for the same high school, Harris — who, unlike her sister, grew to be 6-foot-3 — would pull in more than 1,000 rebounds.

Seniors Alex Harris, Jenna Burdette and JaVonna Layfield (above, from left), bring strong family ties into their lives as Flyer teammates.

“She’s so intense on the court,” Linda Bradshaw, her partner and longtime friend, said, “but not off. She’s the nicest person I know.”

That opinion is apparently shared by her niece. “Alex is her favorite person in the world,” Shayla Wright said. “When Alex is around, no one else exists.”

Harris is shy, her sister said. And quiet, according to her mother, who said that Penn State, where Harris went to school for two years, “was too big, considering where she’s from. She doesn’t show much emotion, but she did get homesick.”

Transferring to Dayton brought her closer to home and, her sister said, “brought out her full potential.”

At Dayton she would join the outgoing Layfield and the taciturn Burdette, two players whose freshman homesickness was the subject of a Dayton Daily News article in 2015 by Tom Archdeacon ’72. He described the first time that the roommates Burdette and Layfield caught each other crying. They hugged each other.

Layfield was born in Louisville, Kentucky, with basketball in her blood. Athletes run on both sides of her family; one uncle played for Louisville.

High-spirited and energetic, Layfield was always doing some activity. Her mother, Shanneca O’Bannon, said, “We told her, ‘You have to do something, whether it’s sport or debate. You don’t come home and sit on the couch.’”

“We were trying to tire her out,” her grandmother, Gail O’Bannon, said.
Like Harris, Layfield “was a big kid,” her mother said. “Through grade school and middle school she played with her back to the basket.” Then she stopped growing, prompting her AAU coach to work with her on playing facing the basket.

She learned that well, her senior year being named by the Louisville Courier-Journal First Team All-State. But having lived her whole life in Louisville, “she wasn’t sure about leaving,” her mother said. She considered staying in town and attending Bellarmine University, an NCAA Division II school.

Freshman year at Dayton was a struggle for her, her mother said, adding, “I struggled, too, but I didn’t let her see it. When she became fine, I did, too.

“But someone here in Louisville still has to hear her voice every day.”

Often that someone is her grandmother who, when they talk, makes sure Layfield is going to church.

“My mom,” Layfield’s mother said, “would live in the dorm with JaVonna if she could.”

And grandmother did make a lot of trips to Dayton that freshman year.

As did members of the Burdette family.

Coolville may be a lot different from Louisville, but one thing they do have in common — four years ago each had a future Flyer star who was not eager to leave her hometown.

Coolville, according to Jonathan Burdette, Jenna’s older brother, “is in the middle of nowhere.” More precisely it is in southeast Ohio, 30 miles from Ohio University in Athens, where Jonathan attends school.

And it is, as Jill Burdette, Jenna’s mother, said, “half an hour from any store.”

Growing up, Jenna and Jonathan would show cattle from their grandfather’s farm. “Jenna would always take animals to the county fair,” Jonathan said.

And the two would play basketball.

For AAU ball, Jenna traveled 80 miles to Huntington, West Virginia, to play for the West Virginia Thunder; while she was playing for the team, it won its first national championship.

At Reedsville Eastern High School (enrollment about 200), Jenna’s coach was her dad, John. Jenna was four times first-team All-Ohio. In her senior year, she was Division IV Player of the Year, and Reedsville won the state championship.

When the time for college came, her mother said, Jenna made lists of what she wanted and did not want. She was looking for a relatively small Division I school. Dayton was within a three-hour drive; she liked the coaches; and the team needed a point guard.

She did for a while think, her mother said, that she’d be the only member of her class on the team. Then she had a roommate and teammate named Layfield — and two years later another teammate named Harris.

Their junior year, Harris’ first on the court, saw the Flyers, for the first time in program history, win both the A-10 regular season and championship titles. This year, as seniors, they went on a 16-game winning streak to again grab the A-10 regular season title, only to lose in the tournament semifinals to George Washington, 58-53. The seniors then turned their eyes toward a possible at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, in hopes of another day to play, together.

Editor’s note: The Flyers received an at-large bid to play in the 2018 NCAA tournament. The team lost in the first round to Marquette, 65-84.

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Alumni Community Profile: Northwest Ohio

12:27 PM  Mar 16th, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

The northwest Ohio alumni community has had a busy year. Last summer, alumni volunteered with the Toledo YES Project, where 120 to 150 youth and adult volunteers come together for four days of Christian service. Alumni hosted a speaker who gave tips on using LinkedIn. And the community organized gamewatch parties for the minor league baseball Toledo Mud Hens and Flyers basketball. When not volunteering or getting together, alumni experience the rich culture of Toledo with activities on Lake Erie, visiting the Toledo Museum of Art or Toledo Zoo, or paying homage to the city’s history of glass production by visiting the Glass Pavilion. And whenever possible, they stop at Tony Packo’s for a quick bite.

Made famous from its regular reference on the television show M*A*S*H, we asked alumni:

Are Tony Packo’s hot dogs really that good, and why?

“Tony Packo’s is the best! When you go, you have to order the chicken chili mac. It’s a lightly sweet chicken chili on top of their Hungarian dumplings. I devour it every time!”—Nicole Susdorf ’09

“Tony Packo’s is extremely similar to Skyline in the way the locals view it. People living in Cincinnati/Dayton love Skyline just as Toledo locals love Tony Packo’s.  If you are ever in the area I would highly recommend going. Tony Packo’s dog is much better than Skyline’s Cheese Coney, and the wall decor of a bunch of hot dog buns being signed by famous celebrities is also a fun touch.”—Chris Alleman ’15

“Tony Packo’s hot dogs are as advertised. It’s a great local quality food that has a distinct flavor. Nothing beats their chili cheese dogs!” —David Theby ’09

Alumni by the numbers

Total Alumni 1,504

Flyer Fusions 145

Graduation classes

All 1940s-2010s

Most 2000s (with 320)

Academic areas

Education & Health Sciences 554

Arts & Sciences 462

Business 255

Engineering 210

Law 23

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ReadSeeHear This: Lost Treasures of St. Louis

12:26 PM  Mar 16th, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

A blog by Cameron Collins ’94

Collins never imagined that the success of his personal blog “Distilled History” — a St. Louis history and drinking blog — would lead to a book deal. The idea of the blog began when he wanted to learn more about the city’s rich history. But he also wanted to throw in a twist. Collins writes, “If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of two things: history and drinking. Specifically,
St. Louis history and, specifically, drinking well-made cocktails.” Collins hunts for bits of under-the-radar history and then stops for a drink on the way. His blog led to his first book, Lost Treasures of St. Louis. For more information, visit www.distilledhistory.com.

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